After facing widespread closures due to the coronavirus, weekend farmers markets in Los Angeles are back open – but with strict new rules to prevent overcrowding.
Reports of large groups at farmers markets raised concerns from officials trying to emphasize the importance of social distancing last week. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti temporarily shut down the locations in the city on Monday.
Since then, each farmers market has been required to meet with city representatives virtually to talk over sanitation requirements, such as social distancing, handwashing stations and signs explaining health protocols. The markets also had to submit a plan for how they would comply with the standards before they could reopen.
"[We're] handling the food ourselves, making sure the customers don’t touch the food," said Odell Richards, a vendor at the North Hollywood Farmers Market. "Some customers get a little touchy when they can’t touch the food."
Richards said he’s sure to explain to customers why they must follow the new rules. At his stand, which is spaced out with other vendors to give them a safe social distance, he handles the money while his partner bags the produce. The changes are tough but fair considering the global health crisis, he said.
"[It's] a huge hindrance on our part," said Christian Benavides, owner of the North Hollywood market. "But we're just here to make sure the community has fresh produce."
It’s a service Lisa and Jeff Girion said they are grateful for.
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"We were almost the only people here. It’s fabulous," Lisa said. "We got all we need for us and my mother."
"I feel like it's safer outside. It's less crowded, so this is fantastic. Plus, the produce is so fresh it lasts a long time."
The farmers market in Silverlake is also following the new protocol, with shoppers coming wearing gloves and masks while they pick up their produce. In other cities, like Downey, markets are still up and running. The crowds are smaller, but – unlike last week – people appear to be following protective recommendations.
The stalls present an alternative to grocery stores in the ever-changing environment formed by the coronavirus. They’re also helping some people improve their culinary skills.
"My wife is an amazing cook," Jeff Girion said. "But honestly, during the coronavirus she’s reached a new level."
For a list of farmers markets approved to reopen, check the Bureau of Street Services website.